September 21st, 2006


Why I love Burning Man so much, and why I feel so terrible when I come home

I was out in the Black Rock Desert for a month this year working on the Temple of Hope, for the Burning Man event, and and then for cleanup. I only got back 9 or 10 days ago. Decompression is the hardest it has ever been for me in my three year's of attendance. A friend of mine remarked "Why do you go when every year you come back more and more depressed?" I've been putting thought into why I was so in my element at Burning Man, and thus why I have not felt so great upon my return. I thought some of you could relate to this so I crossposted it from my personal journal.

1. I had a project, working on the Temple of Hope. I'm like a sled dog that was born to pull. I like, and NEED, to have something to work on. I need a creative outlet. It was especially good for me because it was a big art project. It gave me a sense of purpose. I was distraught on Wednesday because I'd been told to take the day off, having nearly passed out from the heat the day before. Someone practically had to pry the nail gun out of my hand before I went down. I felt that I had one purpose in life, to build this temple, and I couldn't do it that day. I've never been so proud of myself as when I was working on the Temple of Hope, and I'm hard pressed to think of a time when I felt more fulfilled.

2. I was outdoors in a beautiful environment, getting sunlight and fresh air. Being outdoors, in something other than urban sprawl and strip malls, is where I belong. I need regular and easy access to nature and open spaces.

3. Friends were close by. I had a wonderful community in TempleCrew/Camp Katrina. I loved being able to wander back at 3am and find people up talking in the dark of the shade structure when the generator ran out of gas pre-event, or sitting around the burn platform or up on the container. Dusk was my favorite time of the day because I knew soon we'd gather in the "living room" for dinner, and everyone would be smiling, laughing, playing music and telling stories. I loved wandering around at night pre-event meeting the neighbors, or a mellow night chilling at the DPW ghetto around the hippie shredder with a bottle of Scotch. Interaction is a lot more personal, and informal. You don't have to make a date to sit by someone and eat dinner, or walk up to a friend sitting on the open playa to watch the sun set in silence. On the playa, it's so easy to wander into a friend's camp and see who is around, where in the outside world I may need to make phone calls to people and plan a week or more in advance to see them, provided they even answer their phone. I was so overjoyed to be riding my bike along Esplanade and someone would call to me, or vice versa. I've never had the experience of being out and about anywhere but BRC and running into friends. It works well for me. I often want contact with people, but sometimes I have nothing to say so a phone call doesn't work well, but a random bumping into each other at Center Camp is magical.

I like to be around people, even if we are not interacting, just to feel their energy (provided it is not negative) and hear them. Mark [Grieve, Temple of Hope artist] commented on the day he was really ill and laid on the sofa with me, saying how all he could do was listen and that he heard such joy around him. It was true. Our camp was filled with happiness, and I loved being a part of that.

4. I was doing work I believed in. I've said that I want to work in a job that I feel is contributing to the world and making it a better place. I wasn't curing cancer or anything, but I knew what I was doing at the temple was important, and as I see the photos and hear the stories, I know I contributed something very valuable to the Burning Man community, and all those people go out into the world and spread their joy to others.

5. I was living simply. No annoyances and excessive stimulation from television, traffic, or excess posessions. I used to like pretty things, but I thrived with my only luxuries being a massage oil bar, and two Arabic printed throw pillows. It gave me less to worry about, less to trip over, less to be concerned about.

Now it is my job to figure out how to rebuild my life into incorporating these things. Every year I come back from Burning Man and I'm a wreck, something which some people have not failed to point out, but continually fail to understand. It's not as simple as me enjoying myself there because I'm on vacation. Some people feel sad when they come back because they're bombarded with advertisements and they can't walk around naked in the street and people stare at their purple dreadlocks. I think I got that after my first year, but I'm a third year Burner and Temple Crew now and I'm more realistic this time around. I'm unhappy when I come back because my life at Burning Man is very close in values and principals to the life I want, while my existence in the outside world is far from it. Burning Man can't last year round, but that doesn't mean I should only get a week or a month per year to have meaning, purpose, a creative outlet, pride in my work, and a close knit community of accessible people. The experience and the loss of THAT is what fuels the post-Burning Man depression.